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Cell phones are lifelines for flood-hit Bihar

Thanks to cell phones, despite the turbulence people have managed to stay connected with their kin.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2007 22:17 IST


It is neither the gods nor the government but technology - namely Wireless in Local Loop (WLL) and cell phones - that hundreds of rural people marooned by the floods in Bihar are thanking.

The state has this year suffered one of its worst floods in 30 years, but unlike earlier, villagers have made use of technology to contact the administration for relief or family members and relatives living elsewhere.

"I was in touch with my son in Delhi and relatives in Patna by using WLL. It was a lifeline for me," said Muneshwar Prasad from a village in Darbhanga district.

Floodwaters in major rivers receded on Tuesday after creating havoc for 10 days, said an official of the Flood Control Cell. Nearly five million people have been affected in over 2,000 villages across 12 districts.

But through the turbulence, many people have managed to keep their hopes alive by staying connected through technology.

Muzaffarpur district administration officials told IANS that WLL had proved to be very useful.

"When everything was submerged under floodwaters, with roads, no trains, no power supply, no other communication links, including the telephone, to speak of, it was WLL that kept their spirits up by making them stay connected," officials said.

A senior official of the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) said WLL may not be popular in urban pockets, but is very handy in the rural areas of Bihar where there is no power or little access to telephones.

Since the flood prone areas have a high rate of migration, many there stay in touch with family members outside through cell phones and WLL at normal times.

At least a dozen households in every village have cell phones - thanks to the presence of major telecom operators like BSNL, Reliance, Tata Indicom and AirTel - while at least two to three families have WLLs, which use solar batteries and are therefore easy to charge.

And these have proved to be of immense help during the floods.

There are WLL sets at many relief camps, with thousands of displaced people taking shelter in schools, temples and mosques.

Districts like Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Sitamarhi, Patna and Bhagalpur are the worst affected. Dozens of bridges, embankments and roads have been damaged and hundreds of houses, especially in rural areas, have collapsed.

Several residential areas in the state capital are also waterlogged.

Marooned people are facing drinking water scarcity. The shortage of food items, including vegetables, milk and bread, has been reported from several areas and the prices of essential goods has touched an all-time high.

Amid this crisis, technology is making a small but significant contribution by keeping channels of communication open.

First Published: Aug 01, 2007 11:29 IST

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